Campaign helps Washington County nonprofits help themselves

Endowment Challenge will give matching funds to groups that raise 2/3 of goal

Endowment Challenge will give matching funds to groups that raise 2/3 of goal

April 01, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- From music education to stream buffering to low-cost gym memberships, the effects of the Waltersdorf Henson Endowment Challenge Campaign are starting to ripple across Washington County.

The unique fundraiser has put more than $120,000 into the hands of local nonprofits in the last two years, according to Brad Sell, executive director of Community Foundation of Washington County, which is sponsoring the campaign.

The challenge began in 2005 when 15 local groups were selected to start endowment funds through the Community Foundation. The Community Foundation also set up a fund as part of the challenge.

Each nonprofit set a fundraising goal. Combined, those goals equal $5 million.

With matches from local philanthropist John M. Waltersdorf and the Richard A. Henson Foundation, the aim of the challenge is to raise $10 million for the groups by 2010.


In the meantime, organizations that have been chosen to receive early distributions are getting interest payments from their investments.

The Maryland Symphony Orchestra in Hagerstown is using its funds as seed money for music education programs, according to Vicki Willman, director of development for the MSO.

"Everything from kinder concerts at (Hagerstown Community College) to bringing small quartets and quintets to elementary and middle schools. We're using this money to educate kids," Willman said.

Star Community Inc., which provides services for adults with disabilities, has received $6,180 in interest payments so far, Marketing Director Katie Hoover said. It is using the money to bolster its daytime workshops and therapeutic horse-riding program.

The Hagerstown YMCA received about $13,000 from its endowment last year, Executive Director Mike Flicek said. That money will pay for youth programs and low-cost memberships for people who otherwise could not afford them. Flicek said the YMCA supports about 900 people who apply for financial aid.

And George Newman, with Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage, said his group has used the roughly $2,000 it received last year for a wetlands and forest project at Saint James School south of Hagerstown.

"For small nonprofits, funding is usually the biggest issue. So to be able to take advantage of this challenge is a great benefit to us," Newman said.

Fifteen local nonprofits and the Community Foundation created endowment funds as part of the challenge.

Endowments are a type of fundraising mechanism in which a group places money it raises into one or more accounts.

The organization usually only spends the interest earned, so the funds continue to provide money by earning annual interest.

Those organizations combined will try to raise $5 million by 2010, with the remaining $5 million coming through $2.5 million matches from Waltersdorf and the Henson Foundation.

Money raised

To date, the nonprofits have raised almost $3.1 million.

Each nonprofit set a fundraising goal in 2005, and when a group reaches two-thirds of its goal, it begins receiving matching funds.

So far, seven of the 15 nonprofits have hit their goals.

"It's been very successful, very much so," Waltersdorf said.

He said the idea to create the challenge was sparked by a similar effort in Salisbury, Md., in the 1980s.

He said the Henson Foundation, which is based in Salisbury, brought the concept of a matching challenge to Washington County, where the Richard A. Henson Foundation was born.

Henson was one of the first test pilots at Fairchid Aircraft, where he worked for 33 years. He also began a commuter airline service out of Hagerstown Airport, which later was renamed in his honor.

The Hagerstown YMCA on Eastern Boulevard also is named for him.

In 1990, he established the Richard A. Henson Foundation to provide for his philanthropic objectives. He died in 2002.

Waltersdorf said he was pleased to participate in the endowment challenge when the Henson Foundation brought the idea to Washington County.

"I'm really pleased with the variety of funds that were created and the different areas of the community that have benefited from this campaign," Waltersdorf said.

Waltersdorf said the challenge also was a way to draw attention to the Community Foundation, of which he is a board member.

The foundation exists to promote philanthropy in Washington County. It oversees a pool of more than 150 funds that support a variety of charitable causes.

For more information about the Community Foundation or the Waltersdorf Henson challenge, go to

The following groups are participating in the Waltersdorf Henson Endowment Challenge Campaign (goals are in parentheses):

· Antietam Healthcare Foundation, $800,000

· Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage, $100,000

· Hagerstown Community College, $800,000

· Hagerstown YMCA, $375,000

· Hood College, $100,000

· Magnolia Foundation/University of Maryland, $212,500

· Maryland Symphony Orchestra, $137,929

· Mercersburg Academy, $212,500

· REACH Inc., 212,500

· Rotary Sunrise Foundation, $100,000

· Saint James School, $800,000

· St. Maria Goretti, $255,000

· Star Community Inc., $212,500

· United Way of Washington County, $100,000

· Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, $100,000

The Community Foundation of Washington County, as the challenge's sponsor, also is participating. The foundation has set a goal of $500,000.

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